My older son loves going to Cave of the Mounds. Maybe you would like it, too. It’s one of the largest caves in the United States, and geologists love it because it has one of the most diverse groupings of stone in the world. Or something like that. I don’t really know. I hate going there. It’s claustophobic and boring and I take a Xanax every time and then I am so out of it at the end of the tour that I always let the kids buy too much at the gift shop.

My youngest son doesn’t mind going because he’ll do anything where there is a group of kids.

So we go there a lot. And this is what self-directed learning looks like. My oldest son wants to be a paleontologist and my youngest son learns best in groups. It’s torture for me. So Lisa Nielsen’s recent tweet really resonated with me: Personalized learning should be personalized by the student, not the teacher.

I like Lisa because she is always on a tirade, and she once pointed out to me that project-based learning in schools doesn’t work because it’s a project the teacher is interested in, not the kids. I get it. Because I could never dream up a project that I’d hate. It’s cognitive dissonance. I’d never say, “I have an idea! Let’s go on a dinosaur dig!” Because I don’t want to fly to Wyoming, and I don’t want to be in the sun, and I will die of boredom. I only make that suggestion because my son is obsessed with bones and rocks and the life of a paleontologist.

It’s clear to me now that personalized education is not great fun for the parent. If we were learning what I’m interested in, my sons would die of boredom. The structure of a short-story. Fascinating to me. I could study it full time. With yoga and pilates courses in between. But a parent gives up their vision for their own personalized learning—in large part—to accoommodate that of their kids.

I am trying to strike a balance. I do Pilates in between cello classes when we drive to the northern suburbs of Chicago. But it’s a tradeoff. Personalized learning doesn’t work on a group level because each person wants something different. I hate going to Cave of the Mounds, but I’m pretty sure you have stuff you do with your kids that you hate doing, too. And if you don’t have that, then you probably aren’t doing persoanlized learning in your house.